Barron Heating AC Electrical & Plumbing Blog: Archive for the ‘Furnace Replacement’ Category

Should I Replace My Furnace?

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Has your furnace been keeping up with you this winter? If not, it may be time to think about saying goodbye…or at least time to get in touch with an HVAC expert to assess the situation. You should think about the possibility of replacement, repairs, or tune-ups if:

Your furnace is 15 years or older

Although age may just be a number to some, we generally say a furnace approaching 15 years in age is heading into its golden days in terms of efficiency and safety. While your furnace may last up to 20 (or even 30) years with routine maintenance, it’s generally a sound investment for your wallet and health to think about upgrading around the 15 year mark.

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HVAC Helper – A Glossary for Homeowners

Monday, March 9th, 2015

HVAC HELPER

A glossary for homeowners or business-owners thinking about heating, air conditioning, and home performance

AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) – AFUE is the rated efficiency of a combustion furnace. For example, a 95% AFUE model loses 5% of its produced heat up the chimney. In other words, $1 of fuel combusted in an 80% AFUE model loses $0.20 before it even enters the ducts.

Condensate (Condensation) – Heat pumps, air conditioners, and modern furnaces produce condensation and the removal of this collected water is always considered in system design.

Cold Air Return – The “cold air return” is the intake side (sucking side) of a duct system. This duct pulls air from the home and feeds it to the furnace to be reheated for distribution. Leaks in the return air duct are very important to seal as they allow material to be pulled in from wherever they lead (attics, crawlspaces, etc.). Unducted wall cavities are not acceptable for cold air returns in the modern HVAC world, as they are known to reduce efficiency and cause health safety issues.

COP (Coefficient of Performance) – This is an efficiency rating system that compares the output of heat to the consumption of electricity. An electric baseboard or electric furnace (aka resistance heat source) has a COP of 1.0, which means that for every unit of electricity that goes in, you get one unit of heat energy out. A heat pump may have a COP of 3.0- for every unit of electricity that goes in, you get three units of heat energy out.
$1 of heat with a baseboard heater = $3 of heat with a Heat Pump (3.0 COP)

Ducted Filtration and Furnace Filters – Filters located on either the furnace or grille end of the intake duct protect the furnace components from the build-up of airborne particles. More advanced filtration systems can be effective at cleaning the air in a home, but only if the duct and house leakage has been addressed. Filters are rated on the “MERV” scale based on how small of particles they are able to remove from the air stream.

**The Supply Duct Filters available at hardware stores are not recommended. They will negatively affect efficiency and air quality, as well as damage equipment.

Duct Sealing – According to extensive nationwide studies, duct leakage is a leading cause of wasted energy, poor indoor air quality, excessive dust, and comfort complaints. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy found that the typical duct system loses between 25% and 40% of its paid-for heat! Leaks are repaired with either hand applied material or a more comprehensive internal seal using an aerosol dispersed polymer (www.AeroSeal.com).

Duct Sizing – Proper duct sizing is of absolute importance in effectively delivering conditioned air to the home. Improper duct sizing can lower the efficiency of the system, limit distribution (affecting comfort), and cause unnecessary ware on equipment.

Electric Resistance Heat – Think “toaster”. Baseboard heaters, wall heaters and electric furnaces are all forms of electric resistance heat technology and produce heat by passing electricity through a material that causes “resistance,” heats up and then radiates that heat either into an air stream or directly into a room. This is a very inefficient form of heating by modern standards and is going the way of the dodo as a primary heating source in most situations.

Fan Motors – There are two types of fan motors in the world of furnaces:

ECM (Electronically Commutated Motor) – These are variable speed motors that can ramp up and down depending on the call from the thermostat or furnace.

PSC (Permanent Split Capacitor) – These are single speed motors that are on or off.

Heat Pump (Ductless Mini Split) – Ductless Heat Pumps are the world’s most popular heating system. For most standard application, they are the most efficient and cost effective to install. For this reason, utility companies offer significant incentives to upgrade. This is a zonal heating system that operates on a refrigerant technology (see “Heat Pump” below). They do not utilize a duct system to distribute conditioned air.

Heat Pump (Forced Air) – Heat Pumps are really just an air conditioner that can go in reverse. In addition to the cooling process, these have the ability take the heat from the outdoor air and transfer it to the inside of your home. When the heat bearing refrigerant enters the “coil” at the furnace, the heat is picked up in the air stream and distributed into the home. This technology is significantly more efficient at creating heat than propane or electric resistance and even more efficient than natural gas.

Home Performance (AKA, Building Science) – Home Performance refers to the understanding that the whole house as a system and each component affects all others. For example: leaks in the ductwork will worsen indoor air quality, raise utility bills, cause drafts, shorten the lifespan of the furnace, and negatively affect health; air leaks to the attic through recessed lighting will do all the same things; both together will affect those things, but even more so. Because of these relationships, understanding your home’s performance through diagnostic testing is recommended by the US Department of Energy, Energy Star, and Consumer Reports before making any investment in heating, cooling, energy efficiency, or home health upgrades.

HSPF (Heating Season Performance Factor) – HSPF is the standard rating system for Heat Pumps. This is a rating given by regulatory agencies to compare the efficiency at which the heat pump operates to that of other  heat pumps.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) – “Indoor air quality” refers to the potential impact of your home’s air on occupant health and comfort. IAQ is judged on the presence of humidity, dust, radon gas, mold, fiberglass particulate, carbon monoxide and many other conditions. IAQ should be considered a high priority as it will affect both the long and short term health of occupants. Poor IAQ can exacerbate or cause: asthma, sinus infections, chronic respiratory ailments, eczema, fatigue, headaches, and many other issues.

Refrigerant – Refrigerant is the substance used in air conditioning and heat pump systems to transfer heat between the interior and exterior of the home. The refrigerant is transported in copper tubing between the indoor and outdoor coils. When the refrigerant is pressurized it absorbs heat from the air around it.

Registers (aka Grilles) – Registers, grilles, diffusers, and grates are all basically the same thing. In the industry they are commonly referred to as “grilles” or “diffusers.”

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) – SEER is the standard rating system for air conditioners. This is a rating given by regulatory agencies to compare the efficiency at which the air conditioner operates.

Static Pressure – Static pressure is the outward pressure of a substance against its container. In this industry we are concerned most often with the static pressure of the air in the duct system. Good static pressure allows for even distribution throughout the home, efficient removal of heat from the furnace’s heat exchanger or refrigerant coil, and less noise as the air ejects from the grille. Bad static pressure can exacerbate leakage, damage heating equipment, and significantly lower efficiency.

Supply Air – “Supply air” ducting is the delivery system for conditioned air- warm or cool. Supply air ducts should always be well sealed as any air that is lost out these pressurized ducts is lost to the outside, even when it is in a wall or floor cavity.

For more information, call or email your Home Performance Experts and set up a Home Performance Assessment!

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Which is the Right Furnace Filter?

Friday, November 15th, 2013

We should start this post by explaining that within the three main categories of filters, there are many variations on features and installation restrictions. This is meant to be a basic overview to get you started to asking the first right questions before making your final decision.

Media Filters (Paper Filters, Pleated Filters, Washable Filters, Disposable Filters)-

  • Media filters are the first and most basic line of defense when it comes to air filtration. These are a no frills, low efficiency technology that takes care of the basic needs of removing the largest particles before they are deposited in the furnace or back into your home.
  • Most basic media filters range between effectively removing 2-15% of the largest particles from the air stream.
  • Media filters offer no “kill” solution for germs, bacteria, mold or viruses.
  • Media filters are usually disposable and should be replaced every three to four months in the average home.However, there are reusable media filters that can be washed. These filters are most often less effective than the disposable type.

Electronic Air Cleaners

  • Electronic Air Cleaners, or EACs, are the most common upgrade from the standard media filter.
  • EACs are powered and use electrostatic fields to attract particles to the surface of the main filter cartridges.EACs are equipped with washable prefilters that, along with the electrostatic cartridges, need to be cleaned every 3-6 months.
  • EACs are generally rated to effectively remove 75-85% of the largest particles from the air.
  • EACs are not considered to have a “kill” capability.

Air Purifiers

  • Air Purifiers are considered the most effective at cleaning the air stream in your ducts.
  • Air Purifiers will utilize a variety of technologies, layered within the unit, to remove and hold 90-99.9% of the particles in the air. Technologies may include: UV, media filtration, electrostatic, electric sterilization, among others.
  • Some Air Purifiers offer a “kill” capability that can effectively destroy viruses, bacteria, mold and germs.
  • Air Purifiers require an annual maintenance by a professional. Some require annual maintenance kits costing between $100 and $200.

When choosing the right filtration equipment for your system, I suggest first considering how you have experienced the air in your home and what value you place on improving its quality. If you or anyone else in the home have suffered from respiratory ailments, allergies or chronic sinus irritations, you may want to consider that improving your filtration may relieve some of the symptoms or lessen their severity.

If you really have never been concerned with dust or indoor air quality, the basic media filter will do the trick for simply protecting your heating equipment. Whatever filtration type you have installed, be sure to check and change or clean it regularly, at least every 3 to 4 months. A dirty filter can seriously effect your heating system’s ability to operate efficiently and distribute conditioned air around the home.

A last consideration regarding your filtration choice is that your home may be experiencing air contaminant infiltration from a source that will not be addressed by your duct filter. You may need to look into other features of the structure to find the most valuable opportunities for upgrading indoor air quality. These issues are only discovered through a Home and Duct Performance Test (a service offered by Barron Heating and AC).

Good luck and don’t forget to ASK AN EXPERT if you have any further questions.

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Have you changed your furnace filter?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

No matter what type of furnace you have, it’s important to remember to change or clean the filter on a regular basis. This is a relatively straightforward process and doesn’t require any professional help. However, if you’re not sure how to go about doing it, you can always have your heating technician demonstrate the process for you on their next regular maintenance visit.Indeed, changing or cleaning out the furnace filter is an important part of regular furnace maintenance. However, it often needs to be done more than once a year. The specific amount of time that you can go between filter changes depends on many things, but typically it’s good to check on it once every three months or so.

If you have a lot of pets or if anyone in your family has severe allergies, it may be worth it to check and change the filter even more often. Check with the manufacturer to see what their recommendations are as well. Some high performance furnace filters can last up to six months or even a year, but you should still check on the filter periodically to make sure that too much hasn’t built up on it in between replacements or cleanings.

You’ll need to make sure you have the right type of filter to install as a replacement as well. You can get this information from the owner’s manual of your furnace, from the manufacturer or by taking out and examining the current filter in your furnace. Some furnaces also have filters that are meant to be cleaned and then put back in and the cleaning instructions are usually located near the filter itself.

Of course, in order to change your filter you’ll first have to be able to find it. Most of the time, the filter will be located near the blower towards the bottom of the furnace. However, if you’re not having much luck finding it, your owner’s manual should be able to tell you quickly where it is and how to remove it. Before you go to open the chamber and take the filter out, however, be sure you’ve turned off the power to the furnace.

Changing your furnace filter can help improve the air quality in your home and it is also very important when it comes to keeping your furnace running efficiently and effectively. The filters are there to trap airborne particles that can get into the blower and clog it up. When that happens, the performance of your furnace will likely drop and you’ll need to have a professional come out and complete the necessary repairs.

Posted by Wes Diskin

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Understanding Efficiency Ratings of Furnaces

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

A central furnace or boiler’s efficiency is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). The Federal Trade Commission requires new furnaces or boilers to display their AFUE so consumers can compare heating efficiencies of various models. AFUE is a measure of how efficient the appliance is in the energy in its fuel over the course of a typical year.

Specifically, AFUE is the ratio of heat output of the furnace or boiler compared to the total energy consumed by a furnace or boiler. An AFUE of 90% means that 90% of the energy in the fuel becomes heat for the home and the other 10% escapes up the chimney and elsewhere. AFUE doesn’t include the heat losses of the duct system or piping, which can be as much as 35% of the energy for output of the furnace when ducts are located in the attic.

An all-electric furnace or boiler has no flue loss through a chimney. The AFUE rating for an all-electric furnace or boiler is between 95% and 100%. The lower values are for units installed outdoors because they have greater jacket heat loss. However, despite their high efficiency, the higher cost of electricity in most parts of the country makes all-electric furnaces or boilers an uneconomic choice. If you are interested in electric heating, consider installing a heat pump system.

The minimum allowed AFUE rating for a non-condensing fossil-fueled, warm-air furnace is 78%; the minimum rating for a fossil-fueled boiler is 80%; and the minimum rating for a gas-fueled steam boiler is 75%. A condensing furnace or boiler condenses the water vapor produced in the combustion process and uses the heat from this condensation. The AFUE rating for a condensing unit can be much higher (by more than 10 percentage points) than a non-condensing furnace. Although condensing units cost more than non-condensing units, the condensing unit can save you money in fuel costs over the 15- to 20-year life of the unit, and is a particularly wise investment in cold climates.

You can identify and compare a system’s efficiency by not only its AFUE but also by its equipment features, listed below.

Old, low-efficiency heating systems:

  • Natural draft that creates a flow of combustion gases
  • Continuous pilot light
  • Heavy heat exchanger
  • 68%–72% AFUE

Mid-efficiency heating systems:

  • Exhaust fan controls the flow of combustion air and combustion gases more precisely
  • Electronic ignition (no pilot light)
  • Compact size and lighter weight to reduce cycling losses
  • Small-diameter flue pipe
  • 80%–83% AFUE

High-efficiency heating systems:

  • Condensing flue gases in a second heat exchanger for extra efficiency
  • Sealed combustion
  • 90%–97% AFUE

Posted by Wes Diskin

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